Peak One from Upper Elk Creek basin
Peak One as seen from Northeast ridge (coming from White Dome)Peak One
lies deep within the Weminuche Wilderness area
(the largest wilderness area in Colorado) in San Juan Mountains. Technically, it is still a part of Grenadier Range
. White Dome
with Number Peaks: One, Two and Three
, separate Grenadiers from the Continental Divide
Peak One combines really nicely with White Dome
, and even Peaks Three
and Two for a really long day.
Peak One is located far from any roads or towns and this long access means that is not often summited. Expect solitude. The views from its summit are spectacular, especially over eastern part of Grenadiers: The Guardian, Silex and Storm King Peak.
Do not confuse with Peak 1 (written as a number), 12,805 feet high peak, located in Tenmile Range.
The San Juan Mountains: A Climbing and Hiking Guide by Robert Rosebrough provides a short description: “Northeast Ridge - Peak One is usually climbed in conjunction with White Dome from a camp at either Vallecito Lake or Eldorado Lake. The initial object is the 13,180 foot saddle between White Dome and Peak One. Once at the saddle, climb over the point 13,401 to gain the easy northeast ridge".
The Guide to Colorado Mountains with Robert Ormes (sort of a bible of Colorado mountains) provides even a less information: “White Dome along with its close neighbors of Peaks One, Two and Three, doesn’t quite fit the rugged profile of a Grenadier. From the trail above Kite Lake, leave the Continental Divide and head south on the 12,800 contour to the east ridge. Peak One is combined with White Dome by descending the latter’s moderate southwest ridge to the saddle and up Peak One’s easy northeast ridge.”
Peak One can be also done as quick one day trip for those who will drive the rough 4WD roads to Kite Lake.
Colorado Rank: 194 (it is a bicentennial peak = among the highest 200 in Colorado).
Parent Lineage: White Dome
- White Dome (13,627 feet = 4154 meters) 0.76 miles
- Peak Three (13,478 feet = 4108 meters) 1.1 miles (actual walking distance is much longer since you have stay on the ridge)
- Peak Two 1.27 miles (as above the actual walking much longer unless you can fly)
- East Trinity (13,745 feet = 4189 meters) 1.42 miles
- Storm King Peak (13,752 feet = 4192 meters) 1.46 miles (one of the best views of Storm King peak from the ridge between Peak One and Peak Three see below)
- Hunchback Mountain (13,136 feet = 4004 meters) 1.52 miles
- Trinity Peak (middle Trinity) (13,805 feet = 4207 meters) 1.86 miles
- West Trinity (13,765 feet = 4195 meters) 1.9 miles
- Peak Nine (13,402 feet = 4085 meters) 1.92 miles
- Mt. Silex 1.95 miles
- The Guardian 2.52 miles
- Vestal Peak (13,864 feet = 4226 meters) 2.54 miles
- Arrow Peak (13,803feet = 4207 meters) 2.91 miles
Crossing Rio Grande
4WD Road to Beartown/Kite Lake:
Wildflowers - Stony Pass
As mentioned above Peak One is located deep within the Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountain Range. The shortest way to reach it is via 4WD road to Beartown (there is nothing left of Beartown, do not expect even a ghost town). You need a high clearance vehicle since you will need to cross several streams, including Rio Grande. Water levels vary based on conditions, e.g. recent rain or spring time run off from melting snow. (We found it pretty deep even in early September in 2015, July 2016 was less deep).
The road to Beartown is accessible either from Silverton or from Lake City/Creede/Rio Grande Reservoir. I would recommend driving in from Silverton - shorter, and easier. I drove it both ways and found the road towards Rio Grande Reservoir in a bad shape - mostly water damage, would not want to take my car on it again (September 2015). The road from Silverton is in much better shape and faster.
Trinity Peaks as seen from Continental Divide Trail
Along Continental Divide Trail
drive northeast on the main street through town past the courthouse and take a right on Colorado Highway 110, County Road 2 toward Howardville. Pavement ends after a couple of miles. Around 4.2 miles you reach Howardsville (mostly mining buildings). Take a right turn here on a well signed road Stony Pass/Cunningham Gulch, FS 589. Shortly you come to an intersection - one to the left is signed for Old Mine Tour, the other one close to the creek continues straight. It does not matter which one you choose, both reconnect after a couple of miles, and neither is technically challenging. You have to leave Cunningham Gulch and start climbing on a narrow 4WD road towards Stony Pass - FS 737. It is again marked and hard to miss. Mid July to August there are amazing wildflowers along the road. Stony Pass elevation is 12,590 feet. The road from the summit has relatively gentle grade, steep, but well kept. The road down from the pass all the way to Rio Grande Reservoir is numbered as FS
Peak Two as seen from Continental Divide Trail
CDT with a view of Arrow and Vestal Peaks
520. At 11.6 miles you reach an important intersection - well signed for Beartown/Kite Lake to the right, or straight (left) to Creede. The signs says Beartown only 4 miles, Kite Lake 6 miles - be aware that this section is rougher and takes me as long as the whole drive from Silverton.
From Lake City
: again, I am not recommending taking this route, longer and in a worse condition, especially after a rain. Take Colorado Highway 149 to FS 520 and turn west toward Rio Grande Reservoir. There are several river crossings, deeply rutted sections, lots of deep puddles after a rain, narrow rocky steep sections making passing vehicles in an opposite direction impossible. It is about 25 miles long to get to the turn off for Beartown.
Once you have reached FS 506, the road to Beartown is another 4 miles (6.5 miles to Kite Lake). You have to cross Rio Grande right at the start of this road, the water can be pretty deep. The rest of the road is not bad, can get muddy after a rain and towards the end there are some rocky sections. I usually stop somewhere around mile 5 at the Continental Divide Trailhead/Hunchback Pass trailhead. There is a sign/kiosk at the start of the trail and enough place to park 2-3 cars, there are a few more car parks nearby (above the kiosk). The last mile of the road towards Kite Lake gets progressively worse.
Thirsty Moose - by beaver ponds
Resting by beaver ponds
On foot approaches:
1. Approach from the Highland Mary Lakes/ end of Cunningham Gulch out of Silverton
. Passenger cars can make it close to a trailhead (to reach the actual TH it is better to have a 4WD - stream crossing required). You could either start your hike towards Highland Mary Lakes and turn off towards Continental Divide Trai
l less than 1 mile in skipping the lakes, or you can hike all the way through Highland Mary Lakes and connect with Continental Divide/Colorado Trail later on. The second options is slightly longer, but very scenic.
Expect hiking on a well established trail, well marked, well engineered cairns along the trail, incredibly beautiful scenery, and one of the best views into the Grenadier Range. The hike quickly ascends to above 12,000 feet and you continue your approach above the tree line and in a high elevation (keep this in mind during summer monsoon season). It is roughly 6-7 miles in (I did not measure the distance) to reach the Eldorado Lake below White Dome. Eldorado Lake is a great place to set up your campsite. This is the easiest and quickest backpack option for reaching White Dome and Peak One.
There could be a slight variation to this backpacking option: drive to the east side of Stony Pass and hike Continental Divide/Colorado Trail from there. It would shortly connect with above mentioned Highland Mary Lakes trail and you would not have climb as much on your foot since your start would be already above 12,000.
2. Backpack from Molas Lake - Take Colorado Trail down Elk Park, cross the Animas River (nice footbridge), hike along the Durango Silverton Railroad for a short distance and continue on Elk Creek/Colorado Trail past beaver ponds towards the point where Colorado Trail connects with Continental Divide Trail. This approach is very long, requires a lot of ups and downs. The trail along Elk Creek is incredibly scenic and offers nice views into Grenadiers. The final ascent to reach the intersection of Colorado and Continental Divide trails goes through many switchbacks on grassy slopes, which are covered with wildflowers in the summer. It is less than 1/2 mile from here to reach Eldorado Lake. You don't need a 4WD car at all - you park along the main road 550, just below Molas Pass. Most people take two days for this approach. Camping along the Colorado trail is amazing - great primitive campsites.
3. Another variation of backpack from Molas Lake - you start as above, but at beaver ponds you turn off south towards Vestal Basin - this gives you an opportunity to explore Arrow Peak, Vestal Peak and Trinity Peaks. You can cross via Trinity Pass (expect a lot of scree over the pass) and drop into upper Stormy Gulch, or from the pass ascent Peak Three. You can access Peak One from upper Stormy Gulch by gaining its west ridge. (If you drop down from Trinity Pass towards Trinity Lake, you are in a great position to climb Storm King Peak, Silex and Guardian).
4. Stormy Gulch Approach
- if planning a little backcountry experience - start at rough 4WD trailhead at Beartown, hike over Hunchback Pass - consider a quick stroll up Hunchback Mountain
, descend down to Vallecito Creek, cross it and ascend up Stormy Gulch. Again, this approach is great if you want to climb Storm King Peak. The trail up Stormy Gulch is pretty non-existent now - too many fallen trees covered up the trail. The trail does re-appear higher up. Past Trinity Lake you ascend Trinity Pass
and can go over Peak Three towards other numbered peaks and White Dome.
Peak One as seen from White Dome
Peak One as seen from its west ridge towards Peak Three (White Dome is hiding behind it)
Several route options exists, but the most popular and the easiest one is Northeast Ridge
. The goal is to reach the saddle between White Dome and Peak One, 13,180 foot high. I came from Eldorado Lake and skirted below the west side of White Dome and ascended on boulders, snow fields (snow stays here pretty late; but last year September when coming down from this saddle it was completely dry). It is actually easier to go on the snow, since some of the boulders move. I did not hike from Vallecito Lake, but the approach seemed easier, less steep.
Once at the saddle, hike towards the 13,401 Point, a couple of moves 2+, but mostly class 2 walking. Continue on the easy ridge now with a clear view of the summit of Peak One. The views from the summit are spectacular.
Return: either the same way if your objective is only Peak One and/or White Dome.
Southwest Ridge (or better name south slopes to west ridge) - My objective was to continue onto Peak Three. I continued south from the summit of Peak One. The terrain was a little bit more steep than Northeast Ridge and more loose. I dropped into the saddle at 13,200 feet. Hiked up a point 13,385' and continued onto west ridge. The ridge was interesting with a few class 3 moves here and then there. The views along the ridge were spectacular! probably one of the best view of Storm King Peak I have seen. The ridge is long and sometimes it almost appear to technical, but if you look around there are ways to get through it, sometimes dropping a little bit on the south side. Pay attention to your footing. Continue walking down the ridge to the Peak One and Peak Three saddle at 12,660 feet. Basically now you have a great access to upper Storm Gulch and to Trinity Pass. If coming from these areas, this could be your way up Peak One.
Peak One in photos - mostly around the summit and the views
I had a great light on the way up Northeast ridge of Peak One. As soon as I hit the summit the weather has changed, it became dark, cloudy and windy. I considered turning around and going back, but then the stronger part of me decided to go on and keep going towards Peak Three. It was so windy when I was on the ridge towards Peak Three that I had to squat down and hold myself on. Luckily, the wind did not last that long and I had a good time on Peak Three and Two, just later after a safe descent it started to rain, thunder and lighting joined in. Mountains are so unpredictable…
Up to White Dome - Peak One saddle
The Guardian from Northeast Ridge
Mt. Silex and The Guardian
Peak Two from Northeast Ridge
Storm King Peak from Northeast Ridge
White Dome from Peak One - dark moment on the summit
Rio Grande Pyramid
Peak One summit - a small cairn and summit register
West Ridge from Peak One to Peak Three
Storm King Peak as seen from West Ridge between Peak One and Three
National Forest Service does not require purchasing permits when visiting wilderness. Hiking, camping and driving 4WD roads is all free.
When to Climb
Summer is the easiest since the mountain is so for away from civilization. A winter trip would mean a travel for several days through avalanche prone country. The 4WD road to Beartown does not usually open till June and closes late in September (when the first snowstorm hits).
Hike from Kite Lake
Camping Eldorado Lake
Great camping is available at Eldorado Lake. Eldorado Lake is big and offers multiple private spots for camping, just keep in mind you are in a high country > 12,500 feet. There are no trees around to make a fire. The temperature changes quickly and it does get cold at night (I camped there once on October and the lake froze by am).
Vallecito Lake would be another good place for camping.
It is easy to access the saddle between White Dome and Peak One from both lakes. I think the access to the saddle appears easier from Vallecito Lake).
Another option for camping and even backpacking would be upper Storm Gulch. You could backpack to the saddle between Peak One and White Dome, go over Peak One and drop into upper Storm Gulch and either access Storm King Peak, Silex, The Guardian, or go over Trinity Pass into a Vestal basin and access Trinities, Vestal and Arrow from there.
You are in a wilderness area and basically you can camp anywhere.